Focus has been a talking point for IU women’s soccer this week in training.
The Hoosiers return home to play host to Northwestern at 7 p.m. Friday and Illinois at
noon Sunday coming off a pair of conference losses.
The team is focused on getting points this weekend in what has been a wide open race in the Big Ten. Teams currently sitting fourth through 11th in the conference standings are separated by only one point after three conference games.
Junior defender Rebecca Dreher knows how much impact this weekend could have on the Hoosiers’ hopes of returning to the Big Ten Tournament for the first time since 2007.
“This is a huge opportunity for us,” Dreher said. “All of us understand the importance of this week.”
IU Coach Amy Berbary said her team has been focusing on coming out ready to play early and defending well.
The Hoosiers gave up seven goals in their last two games after allowing only two goals all season prior to their game against Ohio State.
“We’ve been working on our individual defending,” Berbary said. “It’s got to get better. I don’t care who you play, you can’t give up seven goals in a weekend. We’ve got to come out focused and execute our game plan and come out right at the first whistle.”
That defense will be tested Friday when Northwestern enters the game looking to record its first conference win.
Despite not scoring a point, senior defender Lara Ross said the Hoosiers cannot overlook the Wildcats, who forced overtime against No. 6 Penn State in their conference opener.
“We definitely can’t sleep on them,” Ross said. “They have some good players that we need to watch out for. We can’t let their record feed into the way we play.”
Berbary described the Wildcats as having talent on all levels of the field, including senior forward Kate Allen, who led the Wildcats in points last year and has recorded nine this season.
“They’ve got some good, dynamic players in every line,” Berbary said. “They have a very dynamic forward in Kate Allen. So we’ve just got to deal with every line and make sure we are sticking with the way we play and account for players.”
Sunday, the Hoosiers will square off against Illinois, who fell in the Big Ten championship finals last season.
The Illini are part of the bottleneck of teams separated by a point between fourth and 11th in the standings and are led offensively by junior forward Jannelle Flaws, who has scored 12 goals this season.
Dreher said getting points from Illinois would go a long way on the Hoosiers’ road to get into the top eight to qualify for the Big Ten Tournament.
“Taking three points away from them is really important,” Dreher said. “We want to be able to determine our own destiny instead of relying on other teams to beat them. We need to be above them by beating them ourselves.”
Ross knows a successful weekend for the Hoosiers would go a long way in getting to the season-ending tournament and is focused on scoring as many points as
“The Big Ten is pretty much wide open right now with all the space between, but that’s a good thing,” Ross said. “We pretty much have to get six points this weekend.”
Follow reporter Sam Beishuizen on Twitter @sam_beishuizen.